Mika Zibanejad Mats Zuccarello
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

As preseason concludes, the one constant for the New York Rangers is the importance of Mika Zibanejad and Mars Zuccarello.

Frank Curto

Opening night for the New York Rangers hockey club is less than a week away. Head coach David Quinn has held a hard-hitting, nose grinding camp with emphasis on one on one battles and constant pressure.

This style of hockey is perfect for two Ranger players, Mika Zibanejad and Mats Zuccarello. The two teammates have the weight of the franchise on their shoulders, but not for all the same reasons.

Mats Zuccarello is the heart and soul of the hockey team. He is the most noticeable aside from Henrik Lundqvist and a fan favorite every night. The veteran forward who is entering his ninth season with the Blueshirts is in the final year of his contract now and must deal with the thought that he is playing his last season or months with the only team he has ever suited up for.

“I’ve got one year left on my deal and I’m here to compete and play well, and trying to do my best for the team to win as long as I’m here.’’ Zuccarello told Colin Stephenson of Newsday prior to Wednesday nights game against the Islanders.”


This attitude is if no surprise to anyone who has seen the “Hobbit,” as he is known by his teammates, play in New York. Zuccarello needs to be here, needs to show the younger players how the game needs to be played in New York.

His tenacity on the ice, incredible passing skills along with a no-quit attitude has been a staple on the Garden ice. This season more than ever he, along with center Mika Zibanejad, will need to carry a very heavy load early in the season as the players adjust to hockey on Broadway.

Lias Andersson, Filip Chytil, Vinni Lettieri will shine under his tutelage. Yet Zuccarello won’t be alone in what could be his final run in a Rangers sweater.

Mika Zibanejad might have even more pressure to deal with on a daily basis. The number one center on the club, Zibanejad, has yet to play a full season since coming to New York three years ago. Aside from winning key face-offs, he is relied upon to lead the number one power play unit.

The center also needs to carry the five on five play along with his probable wingers Pavel Buchnevich and Chris Kreider. He leads the number one unit in and off the ice. Stating how important communication is as he told Larry Brooks of the New York Post.

“I think the system we’re playing in which we’re more aggressive, on the puck quicker and providing more support for each other is good for us and good for the whole team,” Zibanejad said before scoring twice in Wednesday’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Islanders at the Garden. “The three of us talk all the time, whether it’s on the bench, in the room.”

That leadership and commitment to the team cannot be overrated. The 25-year-old is a veteran on this rebuilding team. His skill in positional play and defensive coverage is something all players need to follow.

Zuccarello and Zibanejad may seem to be heading in different career paths, but winning can change that destiny. The Rangers dynamic duo have so much to offer to the club and its players as they lead by example on the ice which is what will help bring the newest members of the Rangers to understand the traditions of this original six organization.

The Rangers hope they can also bring winning games and maybe a playoff run sooner rather than later.

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